Friday, February 28

Snow Day

I grew up in Syracuse, New York and let me tell you we knew snow!

I'm sure my memory isn't perfect, but I remember it snowing all the time.  Maybe not every day, but certainly a few times a week.  And it was fun.  I took up skiing in the seventh grade and we went to the slopes at least twice a week, sometimes more.  They were only forty-five minutes away.  Once I could drive, we were there all the time.

And I still remember that emotion of turning on the radio in the early morning hours to see if our school would get mentioned among the closings for the day.  A snow day was an adventure.  The world stopped for the day and we could do whatever we wanted.

Not so much anymore.

As a New York City person now, cold weather and snow is a drag.  A real drag.  And this winter has been one of the worst in my time in the city.  All I can say is thank you for the subway system.

The winter weather this year is really bringing people down.  "Is it cold enough for you?"  "This snow is killing me."  "I can't wait for it to get warmer."

But why are we so surprised at this weather?  We live in the Northeast.  We grew up with this stuff!  It's winter, by the way!

Because there's no such thing as a snow day anymore.  Life goes on.  Still have to commute to work, get on conference calls, check emails, and get work done.  The snow doesn't stop anyone in their tracks, it just makes it all so much harder.  Snow storm after snow storm.

So sure the temperatures are the same, as is the snowfall from when we were kids.  But living winter as an adult just isn't the same.

There's no such thing as a snow day anymore!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, February 27

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Over the years, I've watched the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue grow and grow ... reaching what I would call "brand status" at this point.  And the calendar too (do people still buy calendars?!?).

The year was quite the bomb because it's the 50th anniversary ... now that's a brand with staying power.  And with social media "these days," there actually are quite a few bombs being thrown.  Or shade as they say.

First of all the models are tossing around commentary, which is all great fun.  And some of the former models are weighing in on their run in the sun.  The social aspect of this brand has taken it to another level.

Retail has kicked in as well, with Sports Illustrated Swimwear available at Target.  I personally had never seen that brand extension before.  Well done.

And then of course there's Barbie.  She hit quite a stir when the 50-something "model" announced "apologetically" that she would be in the issue, swimsuit and all.  Why it caused such a stir, I don't know because this girl's been wearing swimwear since nearly day one.  The Barbie Sports Illustrated version is available at Target as well.  "The doll that started it all."  Well played.

I know many people think this is all sexist and perpetuates female stereotypes, and I get it.  But it's also a part of our collective pop culture and you certainly don't have to participate if you choose not to.

I for one kind of appreciate the brand, all 50 years of it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Join us for live tweets during the Academy Awards on Sunday 3/2/14 at #OscarExp.  We'll be talking about the marketing, but probably not about swimwear.

Wednesday, February 26

Esurance: Is It OK To Be Competitive?

A challenge question is running through my mind this morning as I think about branded marketing:  is it ok to be hyper super competitive in your messaging?

I "grew up" in marketing at Johnson & Johnson Baby Products, literally.  Worked in baby care, oral care, skin care ... every kind of care.  Back then the answer was "no."  While it was good to be perhaps "aggressive" in advancing your best message forward, it wasn't necessarily ok to be outwardly competitive.  In other words we didn't name names and we didn't hit hard.  At least not too hard.

Evidently esurance (backed by Allstate) didn't grow up that way.  The brand is making a direct assault on Geico, although admittedly they never name them by name.

Geico's claim is "15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance."  The simplicity has done the brand well, or so it seems.

Esurance is attempting to make that look completely outdated and old school.  By going completely online with Esurance, you can save "more than that in half the time."  7 1/2 minutes to be exact; a direct attack.

But there's more.  Esurance is actually taking a direct assault on offline behavior in general, with a series of videos and advertising that highlights the absurdity of staying offline ... translation is that if you are still buying your insurance offline than you are outdated and losing money.

Take a look at this "hold out:"

Or this "offline over sharer:"

While it is overly competitive and is contrary to how I was "raised," I do think it's quite compelling.  The messaging, which is layered in creativity, is dead on with a simple message ... doing things the old offline way simply isn't smart.  You have to keep up and you can save a lot more money a lot quicker using "new school" thinking.

I for one salute the competitiveness.

The only issue is ... what if someone else comes along with a better savings message or something that makes this one outdated?  That's the tricky part of basing your brand on being overtly competitive.

We'll have to take a wait and see on that one!

What's your experience?  JIM

PS - Join us for live tweets during Sunday's Academy Awards on 3/2/14.  We'll be talking marketing at #OscarExp

Tuesday, February 25

Content Marketing, By Example

"Content Marketing" is the buzz word du jour in marketing, but it's leaving a lot of people scratching their heads.  On one end of the spectrum you have those who don't really understand what it is and what it's supposed to do, and on the other end of the spectrum you have those who think we've been doing it all along.

Me?  I learn by example because "marketing is a spectator sport!"  So here's two recent examples that I think exemplify the idea behind content marketing and what it should be accomplishing for both the brand and its consumers.

Nature Valley Trail View:  as part of the Nature Valley brand's commitment to nature and helping to preserve it, the team hiked over 400 miles of nature trails around the country and captured footage via Street View technology for those of us to enjoy here online.  It's meant to ideally inspire us to get out there and enjoy nature as well ... and enjoy the brand in the process.

Chipolte:  to highlight its commitment to sustainable sourcing practices, the brand just released a four-part comedy television series titled "Farmed and Dangerous" via Hulu.  This is full on entertainment, with minimal to no brand integrations, all designed to raise awareness about ethical standards in farming and safety for animals.

In both cases, the brands are not pushing their brands ... although they are promoting the values held by their brands and most likely those who consume them.  In both cases, the content is meant to inspire, entertain, educate, and share, not necessarily sell product ... at least not directly.  In the end, both cases serve well to enhance the brand's reputation and to promote the brand's essence.  It's a more subtle form of marketing meant to engage and connect ... building an emotional connection with consumers that creates brand loyalty at a deeper level.

Of course the key is that the content has to be relevant to both the brand and the target consumer, no small feat because that requires a lot of digging and a lot of homework.

That's content marketing.  What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Join us Sunday night for #OscarExp ... live tweets about the marketing during the Academy Awards!

Monday, February 24

Under Armour at the Olympics

Under Armour has certainly had its fair share of brand beatings this year.

First all the drama with Duck Dynasty, and their decision to continue with the partnership despite the controversy.  That has long died away perhaps because the show didn't get the viewership it had once enjoyed.  We've all moved on.

But that doesn't even compare to the drama at the Sochi Olympics.  The USA Women's Speedskating team had a tough go at it, and many blamed the new uniforms from Under Amour in partnership with Lockheed-Martin.  Nothing says athletic speed like the combination of Under Armour and Lockheed-Martin.  Or so the branding would imply.

But it didn't go that way.  Whether it was just tough competition, the fact that the team hadn't competed in the uniforms before, or simply stress and head games ... we will never know.  But the brand is sticking by its name and just renegotiated terms to continue supplying uniforms for the team through 2022.

The CEO, and the team ultimately, handled the whole situation like champs.

Good for them.  This is the Olympics spirit:  don't lay blame, just pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start all over again.  And behave like a team.

See you next time!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, February 21

Bloggers As Brands

My friend Isabel Laessig has created this great community called "Sunday Supper Movement."  The basic premise being that time spent around the table with family and friends is time well spent indeed

This is a movement that I can relate to and truly be a part of.  My best memories with my kids are around a dinner table, no matter where that table sat.

Isabel is a foodie and a blogger, as are many of her fans and followers ... as am I.  So when Isabel asked me if she could feature my new book on her site and write a blog post, I certainly jumped at the chance.  Isabel was also generous enough to give me a quote to appear in my new book as well.

But ... what to contribute to her community?

Since my new book is about personal branding, I thought I'd discuss what it means to be a brand from a blogger's perspective.  After all, bloggers are brands too.

Give it a read here, but also check out Isabel's "Sunday Super Movement" while you are at it.  And have a good #SundaySupper this weekend.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, February 20

Entrepreneur Barbie

Yet another sign that being an entrepreneur is in fashion!

This week at Toy Fair, Mattel announced its latest career choice for Barbie .. and she's an entrepreneur.

It's certainly a sign of the times as we see a boom in startups and entrepreneur ventures, from both women and men, thanks to the economy and the new generations in the workforce.  And we see that more women are entering startups then ever before.

We're not sure exactly what Barbie's start up will be, but perhaps there are some clues:  a pink dress (meeting lots of people in person?), an iPad (highly social?), and a smart phone (conference calls?) are all carefully chosen accessories.  She's certainly dressed for success!

I love it ... especially since brand Barbie is working towards staying relevant to trends year after year after year (for decades now).  And I realize that brand Barbie is also open to great criticism, which started again the moment this announcement was made, but in some ways that's also the sign of a great brand ... the ability to spark conversation, debate, and emotional responses at every move.  Not a lot of brands get that kind of attention.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, February 19

Be a Benchmark Brand

I just finished up my series on personal branding over at Entrepreneur.  I exited out with a challenge that I'd like to post here as well.

In whatever you choose to do, be a Benchmark Brand.  Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, February 18

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Last night we witnessed the revitalization of one brand and the continual rise of another.

The Tonight Show is back in NYC, with SNL alum Jimmy Fallon as its starring host and rising star.

While the format and content was more nostalgic than innovative, I couldn't help but wonder where this will all go.

Yes there's a new set and a new host, but there's something even bigger ... let's face it television viewing habits have changed, drastically.  No one knows this better than Jimmy Fallon.  In a world there the three minute clip gets viewed on YouTube much more than the real-time full length show, this is a host that thrives in this phenomenon, because he professionally grew up with it.

So while we didn't see a lot of change last night, I'm betting there's an ongoing refresh planned as the show rolls out.  Content will be served up in small doses that can be viewed from the devices all throughout the next day, and in cabs rushing through the very streets of the city where it was taped the day before.

I know I personally won't be staying up late every night, but I'm looking forward to the shining moments when Jimmy "does his thing" with his guests and we all enjoy it the next day.

That's how The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will roll, and I am so happy it's a brand that's come back to a city that never stops tweeting.  Keep your eyes and ears open today and you'll see what I mean.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, February 13

Olympics - Jumped the Shark?

Is it just me or has the Olympics jumped the shark?  No one seems to be into them this year.

Is it the weather?  Although you would think that all this snow and ice would put us in the mood to watch the skiing and skating?  Plus we're inside more anyway.

Is it the overall decline in big screen television watching?  Maybe, but all the events are available to view from any screen we've got.  The hosts are certainly not helping; they're a bit painful to bear.

Is it the every other year timing?  Now that we alternate the Olympics every other year, are they just too close together to be special anymore?

Or is it Russia?  Has the drama around Russia overshadowed the games themselves and caused us to tune out?

It might be all of the above, actually.  The Olympics have become background noise ... a layer of activity that's always on but it just sits in the background as we go about our lives.  Sure it's on the tv at the bar we go to for a drink or we have it on at home while we multi-task or we click in and out to read the headlines, but we're not really paying attention anymore.

I used to love watching the Olympics.

Folks that were complete unknowns going into the games would come out as huge heroes.  The very few would get a huge "moment in time" ... a glorious victory that they'd worked toward for their whole lives.  The almost "instant" celebrity would extend when they "came home" and made the talk show circuit and then get endorsement deals.  It was exciting to watch them achieve the success they so richly deserve.  It was a huge win for the sponsorship brands as well.

It just doesn't feel that way anymore, and it's a little sad, don't you think?

What's your experience?  JIM.

Since I'm writing this on "Throwback Thursday," here's a little ditty from Whitney Houston that sums up the feeling ... the theme song from an Olympics from back in the day .... "One Moment in Time."

Wednesday, February 12

Dumb Starbucks

There's been an interesting "event" happening in LA that has a lot of people standing in line, and scratching their heads.

It's a complete mock Starbucks but named "Dumb Starbucks," logo and all.  With no announcement and no fanfare ... just a single tweet ... it caused quite a stir as people just instinctively stood in line for the promotions and to get in on the action.

And of course the free drinks including Dumb Frapaccinos.  There were even Dumb CDs ala the real thing.

So what's up?

Turns out that it was a parody created by a comedian from Comedy Central ... content if you will for a future episode, or so it seems.  The problem is that the Board of Health shut it down for lack of a proper permit and the real Starbucks brand started formulating a response.

So what's the take away here?

First of all, don't mess with a brand.  It's not for play, and you may rattle a lot of people in the process.  Evidently the "parody" play doesn't necessarily give permission to invade trademarks.

Second of all, how cool is that to reach the kind of pop culture status that you can actually have people form lines to figure out what's going on with your brand ... how cool is that?  There are not that many brands that not only would someone mock, but that anyone would notice. 

So while this one escapade certainly seems a bit odd and mysterious, it was fascinating to watch it play out in the public space.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, February 11

Say "I Do" at DQ

With the Olympics in full gear, it's hard to break through the marketing chatter so brands have to get clever.  But then again it's also Valentine's Day which brings an opportunity to connect with lovers everywhere.

Which is exactly what Dairy Queen is doing ... by offering free weddings on Valentine's Day ... to celebrate the launch of their Red Velvet Blizzard.

(personally I've always been a fan of the heart-shaped ice cream cake)

It's a little ditty of a stunt that's capturing attention throughout the restaurant trade and with consumers alike.  Couples simply register by Wednesday 2/12 for a chance to get selected.  Then you just show up at a participating DQ with an officiant and 20 friends and DQ does the rest, complete with their new Blizzard.

A few things to note that stood out for me.  First of all, the promotion says "bride and groom" which feels a bit out of date to me.  What about same sex couples in states where marriage equality stands tall?  Nonetheless, it'll be fascinating to see who shows!

As my social media guru friend "Social*Fly" mentioned,  we didn't see a hashtag anywhere in the promo materials, which feels like a big miss.  This seems like a social media opportunity like no other, with local media chops that should get great coverage.  It's the age of the hashtag!

Dairy Queen is owned by Berkshire Hathaway who recently shot out the "billion dollars for perfect March Madness brackets" promotion ... the company sure seems to be getting good at stunts!

Anyway, I salute the creativity of the idea and the effort to bring attention to their product launch.  It's not easy this time of year.  Who doesn't like seeing couples come together, especially at Valentine's Day!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, February 10

Let the Games Begin, Please

Official Olympics sponsor Visa announced yesterday on Twitter that the Americans won their first gold medal at the Olympics ... let the games begin!

I say "begin" because all the hype and commentary hasn't been on the games itself up until now, but on all the drama ... drama that isn't so good for the Olympics, the athletes, or for Brand Russia.  It started way before the Opening Ceremony with all the human rights issues.  But we won't go there right now.

Almost in response to that, however, we have a Chevrolet commercial that debuted during the Opening Ceremony, showing the diverse landscape of our American culture and families, including gay people.  Watch it here.

Or this spot from Ameritrade, with storytelling that any parent can relate to, and getting to the real meaning behind the Olympics for the athletes and their families alike.

Or this piece of advertising from Kellogg's ... "see you at breakfast."

So sure, there's lots of drama and we can't ignore the issues surfacing before, during, and after the games.  But let's also remember the athletes and their families who have worked their entire lives for this moment.  I salute them.

What's your experience?  JIM.